When it comes to snack emergencies, go slow – food, that is

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You don’t need to know what “slow food” is to appreciate the convenient nature of snack foods. Most snacks these days are factory processed thousands of miles away, with unknown and excessive ingredients that lack nutritional density. My alternative to this “fast food” is simple homemade snacks.

Searching through the pantry the other day for something healthy to tide me over until dinner, a big jar of green pumpkin seeds inspired me. I grabbed some oats, coconut and honey and begun a batch of granola. Wanting to experiment, I made one pan with maple syrup, coconut oil, shredded coconut and almonds, and another with butter, honey and pumpkin seeds. They both turned out deliciously! The aroma beckoned my daughter into the kitchen to test taste the first batch, with a little yogurt and blueberries.

We really enjoy all kinds of nuts, and my husband alone could go through a pound of cashews in a week if I let him. I like to candy nuts in maple syrup for a sweet treat, or roast them slowly in the oven with a glazing of tamari (or soy sauce) and a dash of cayenne. Once dry, they pack nicely in a jar in the pantry, ready for anytime snacking or easy nutrient-dense addition to lunches.

Those snackers who love crispy, salty treats often enjoy kale chips as a healthful alternative to potato chips. Chopped and tossed with olive oil and salt, kale is baked slowly until crispy. I like to add almond butter for a savory element, but it’s also nice with garlic and ginger. Once cooled, they store well in a sealed plastic bag.

For the not so adventurous, give homemade chips made of beet, yam, celery, taro or rutabaga roots a try. Simply slice very thin, fry until crisp and season with salt and pepper. These also store well in a sealed plastic bag.

Recently, our favorite after-school snack is air-popped popcorn with a light drizzle of olive oil and a mixed berry smoothie. The kids make their smoothies with their favorite berries, a cup of yogurt and cup of apple juice.

Some recipes can make the process sound complicated, but all one really needs is oats, brown sugar and honey, butter, nuts and dry fruit. They make lovely contributions to lunches, snacks for after soccer practice, or treats to bring the team after a game.

A nutrient-dense snack that can hold over anyone until the next meal combines finely chopped dry fruit and nuts. Add a dash of spice and salt and roll it all into a ball. I like to roll them in cocoa powder or shredded unsweetened coconut for added flavor and appearance.

And what about homemade beef jerky? My family loves it, but most of the varieties in stores are full of additives and nitrates. I kept saying I was going to make my own, but didn’t get around to it until last week after I found a recipe by Wellness Mama. Less expensive than the traditional meat used for jerky and simple, I had to give it a try. It came out wonderfully and passed the picky-eater test, making it a new staple in our slow-food snack repertoire.

Though it may be easier to buy snacks at the store, a little time and planning in the kitchen is well worth it. Not only do you avoid excess additives, preservatives, unhealthy fats and sugars, you are actively voting for your family’s health with your time and dollars. Perhaps more significantly, you’re setting an example of the importance of foods made at home rather than industrial mass-produced foods.

Simply put, that’s what slow food is all about.

Melissa Davis, a local chef with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, specializes in natural foods. She can be reached at jadenluna@gmail.com. More of her writing is at melissadavisfood.com.

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